How did Sixers stars of the future look in Summer league opener?

The Sixers beat the Bucks 107-106 in a game that should not have been close at all. The specifics of how this game played out are pretty insignificant. Even if the Sixers lost by 20, the focus of the summer league is to see how certain players might play in the NBA. How did some of the hottest Sixers prospects look?

Zhaire Smith:

Zhaire is really good and should be able to get 10-15 minutes a night already. He finished with the highest plus-minus with a plus 11. Even though he barely played last year, you can see how just one year of being near an NBA team can be beneficial for your game. He looked so mature, making five great assists and just seemed to always make the right pass.

He finished with 10 points, with 4 of them coming off of dunks. Him and Ben Simmons will be a nightmare in transition. I think two dunks were left on the table because guys just did not see him making the run. Ben Simmons will always make that pass and it looks like Zhaire will always hammer it home. I would not be shocked if Zhaire is a surprise entrant in the dunk contest next year.

The defense was great. He attacked the three-point line and closed out shooters, making good switches and keeping his defender in front of him. I think he has great defensive potential and shouldn’t be a liability.

He does have flaws, however. A wonky shot with a low release point could take time to iron out. Every shot he did take though just rimmed out. So maybe if he tweaks something, the shot will go in. On the back of this, he seemed reluctant to shoot at times, passing up open threes.. If he is getting minutes at the NBA level, he will need to start shooting those shots.

Shake Milton

The Sixers have just signed Shake Milton to a four-year contract, but does his play deserve it? Shake looks like he has potential, but his play felt all over the place. He came out looking to prove he deserved that contract, instead of just letting the game come to him. Milton was constantly forcing shots and passes. His shot is really slow and defenders kept blocking him which is concerning when he will be playing against better defenders on the Sixers.

He did have 7 assists and finished with a plus four,which was tied for second after Zhaire. I just have real fears about his fit on the Sixers. He shot 2 of 14 which is terrible. The Sixers need backup guard minutes but if he is going to shoot like that, it makes sense to seek reliability in Josh Richardson or Tobias when Ben is out. He has potential but needs to shoot with more discipline, period.

On a positive note, he did get to the line 13 times and made 11 of them, which is great. This also could have just been a cold night for him and if those shots go in, I might not be as down on him. The bottom line is he just got a contract and to justify him not being in the G-League, he needs to play better.

Matisse Thybulle:

I really like Thybulle’s potential, but he’s still raw. He had turnovers and bad passes but his intangibles are great. His defensive vision is one of the best I have ever seen. The Washington product was picking player’s pockets and getting his hands up in passing lanes. He knows where to be before something happens. His defensive IQ gives him some very special upside. I could easily see him making the All-Defensive Team regularly.

His vision right now is a gift and a curse. He is so good at knowing what is going to happen he can sometimes get greedy. He can jump into a passing lane instead of staying on his man for a steal that is just not worth it. Instead of staying in front of his man Thybulle will often go for the steal and get beat. Knowing when to pick his spots will come with time. He will get better defensively, and one day great.

His handle can be sloppy and he shot 1 of 4 from three, but overall, his shot looks good…the ball just does not go in. I imagine he will become a better three-point shooter because his mechanics look fine. He also is willing to shoot, which is a huge positive. Every three pointer he took, I wanted him to take which is something the Sixers will need. This team needs shooting. Even if these young players are not confident in their shots they need to shoot the ball. This team needs credible threats from three and Matisse willing to take those shots is very encouraging.

Other observations:

Norvel Pelle and Christ Koumadje both played fine. These were the Sixers centers during the game. Both players looked like they could be capable backup centers for the Sixers. With that position almost always going to be a position of need for the Sixers; I would not be surprised if either player got a ten-day contract.

Marial Shayok was the surprise of the day. He shot the ball extremely well, shooting 7 of 13 from the field and 2 of 4 from three. He finished well above the rim and made some clutch shots. The fear in shooting was non-existent, which I loved. I honestly would not mind seeing him get a ten day after today. The Sixers I think need what Derrick Rose was for the Wolves this year. A guy to come off the bench and just get his shot up.

Marial was a minus 15 for the day, which shows how bad he was on defense. The Sixers are stacked with defense though and only have two to four players that can really create their own shot. Brett has shown that he puts a premium on defense and Marial will need to get better on that end of the floor, but if he keeps this play up I would love to give him a ten day. All he needs to do is shoot and play ‘ok’ defense and he might be able to contribute on the Sixers bench.

Lastly, Connor Johnson, the G-League coach, seems like a pretty good coach. This team looked very similar to the Sixers. They played fast in transition, played hard on defense and always looked to make the extra pass. This G-League teamed looked like it could have been coached by Brett Brown. Having Connor coach a similar style to Brett is huge and will just make it easier for any players that get called up to play the way Brett likes. This may be a small thing but it shows the attention to detail the Sixers organization have. Overall great showing at Summer League and hope to see more positive things later today.

Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

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